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The Great Recession Shrank Our Wealth, Fed Says [AUDIO]

The recent economic crisis left us with no more wealth than we had in the early 1990s.

Flickr User BasicGov

That’s according to the Federal Reserve, which found that median net worth declined from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. Net worth is the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks, minus debts like mortgages and credit cards.

According to the data, families’ income also continued to decline. Median family income fell to $45,800 in 2010 from $49,600 in 2007. The share of families saving anything over the previous year fell to 52 percent in 2010 from 56.4 percent in 2007.

“A large portion of it is a decline from the peaks in terms of housing values. We had two bubbles, one in the 1990s and another in 2000 and that gave us an exaggerated sense of our personal wealth,” said James Hughes, Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. “In the intervening years since the Great Recession, much of that home equity has been wiped out bringing us back to 1990s levels. A second factor is a decline in the stock market. We’re still roughly where we were in 2000 in terms of stock market levels.”

“Add those two factors together along with an abysmal savings rate during that period and we have households really having a major setback from where they were. Households are less able to consume right now. They’ve only been able to consume by not saving and after bouncing back a little bit during the recession, the savings rate has again declined. So, we’re consuming, but we’re doing it at the expense of our long-term fiscal future.”

“There may not be any simple solution to this. It means our standard of living has flat-lined and isn’t any greater than it was a decade ago,” said Hughes. “In general, this makes for a very uncertain future because there are no silver bullets that are going to change the situation any time soon.”

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